Blood Feud in Islamabad Complicates U.S.-Pakistan Relations

UPDATE (June 27): The Pakistani Supreme Court today ordered the new Prime Minister Ashraf to reopen a corruption case against President Zardari by July 12.  With Ashraf already indicating that he will decline, the likelihood of continued political upheaval grows.

A long summer of political turmoil has begun that makes harder the search for a new equilibrium with Washington

Pakistan has a new prime minister, but for how long?

A tale of two capital cities in the grip of political uncertainty unfolded in South Asia last week.   Islamabad was the scene of a fast-paced soap opera that throws into further doubt the future of the democratization process and complicates efforts to repair the breakdown of U.S.-Pakistan relations.  Meanwhile in New Delhi, simmering tensions within the coalition government erupted into open revolt, further constraining decision-making at a time when the United States in seeking to draw closer strategically.

This post will focus on the Pakistani case, the more acute of the two; a subsequent post will deal with the political tussles in India, which might ultimately prove to be cathartic. Continue reading

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Time to Cool the Rhetoric on Pakistan

However justified, the public berating of Islamabad has become counterproductive

The comments made by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta during his swing through South Asia last week once again raise the question of how coordinated the Obama administration’s regional policy is.  An earlier post flagged this issue two months ago by noting the curious timing of Washington’s decision to offer a large bounty for the arrest or capture of Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, a major jihadi leader allowed to live in plain sight in Pakistan. Continue reading

The Real Tragedy of Memogate

The key lesson of the Memogate controversy is the readiness of the Pakistani political class to exploit the civil-military imbalance for a tactical advantage

This commentary was originally published by Asia Times Online.  Click here to read the entire piece.

The bizarre Memogate conspiracy drama that has flared anew in Pakistan is yet another example of the endemic dysfunctions between the powerful security establishment and their nominal civilian masters that have lead the country throughout its history to the brink of ruin.

But the affair also demonstrates the long-running failure of the political class to understand that, even in the throes of competitive politics, it has a common interest – indeed a fiduciary obligation – in upholding the principle of civilian supremacy over the military.  For evidence of this proposition look no farther than Nawaz Sharif, the leader of Pakistan’s main opposition party.

Click here to read the rest of the piece.

A Tough Week for Pakistani Diplomacy

Events lay bare just how strategically isolated Islamabad has become

As my last post noted, the events of the past week show that New Delhi is sitting pretty diplomatically, being courted ardently by both Washington and Beijing.  Conversely, they also laid bare just how strategically isolated Islamabad has become.

Pakistan’s most recent troubles began with President Obama giving President Asif Ali Zardari the cold shoulder at the NATO summit in Chicago three weeks ago.  Since then Washington has dramatically ramped up its campaign of drone attacks in the country’s tribal areas, which last week killed Al Qaeda’s second in command in North Warizistan.  Officials in Islamabad publicly denounce the strikes as violating the country’s sovereignty and they have helped drive a marked increase in anti-American sentiment.  Yet U.S. officials reportedly believe that they have very little to lose by defying Pakistani sensitivities. Continue reading

India Shining, At Least in Geopolitics

New Delhi is being wooed by both Washington and Beijing, though its ultimate choice is becoming increasingly clear

A previous post focused on the unexpected improvement in India’s strategic position in its own neighborhood.  Events this week brought evidence of how New Delhi is emerging as an important pivot point on Asia’s broader geopolitical stage.  Indeed, for every global investor fleeing the country these days, there is a foreign statesman who wants to partner more closely with it. Continue reading

Glimmers of Hope in Pakistan

Pakistan’s prospects careen from bad to worse, but there is still some possibility that it will one day evolve in a more liberal and moderate direction

Events over the last few weeks have amply demonstrated the growing decrepitude of the Pakistani state, providing fresh justification for its perennial ranking at the top of the world’s failed-state indices.  Yet out of the gathering gloom, several flickers of light can be detected.

First, though, there can be no doubt about the country’s cloudy prospects.  The massive energy crisis, which has resulted in prolonged black-outs, has crippled the already weak industrial base.  With the national government defaulting last month on its loan guarantees to power producers, some experts warn that the energy crunch is more of a threat to stability than is terrorism. Continue reading